Good copy should advertise a business and promote its offerings. So why isn’t your copy bolstering click-through rates and sales?
You can look at the technical side of it, but you might neglect the psychology.
See, effective copywriting requires you to know your audience.
Here’s how you answer those questions: psychology—the study of the human mind and its functions. Consumer psychology has a more specific focus, and it comes down to understanding what customers think and feel.
If you’re not sure what your audience thinks and feels, don’t worry. That’s what this article covers. Psychology is complex, so incorporating it into your copy might seem daunting. It can be, but you can make the task much easier with a fundamental understanding of psychology.
From there, you can break psychology down into sections and develop tactics to use those sections to your advantage. To make it simpler, you can use tactics others have already acquired through the same process.
Want to find out how? Read on to learn the seven key things about psychology-based copywriting you might be missing and how you can incorporate them.
Table of Contents
Here’s the short and (not so) sweet version: you can’t expect to sell anything without understanding and implementing psychology. Want the unabridged version? Well, it’s a bit more complicated—but still within your grasp.
To understand what psychology looks like in sales, consider your first impression of the last website you visited. Did the website look nice or messy? Did the copy negate your objections or create confusion? Did you feel the need to buy the product now, or did you think you could wait?
Chances are that the website looked good, the copy answered all your questions, and you felt you needed to make the purchase then and there. That’s what psychology looks like in sales, and the team behind the website knew that.
If they were diligent, every detail, from the CTA button’s shape to the text’s size, was consciously chosen. Remember, incorporating psychology into your copy is more than just hyping a product on a professional-looking sales page.
When it comes to spending money, every detail counts. This means you can’t force a sale. People will catch on, and your reputation will go down the drain.
Instead, your audience shouldn’t even realize you’re using these tactics. Appealing to psychology the right way means that people aren’t aware that you’re doing it at all.
Don’t make the mistake of being manipulative or deceptive, though. Marketing can skirt the line between ethical and unethical, but you should always err on the side of ethics. If not, you can lose customers or even get the attention of the FTC.
That’s something you don’t want. It can lead to consequences much worse than a lack of sales. Namely, lying in your copy can destroy your business and leave you with fines.
That probably sounds like a no-brainer, but unfortunately, this is easier said than done. To add to the challenge, the alternate option is to use “brute force,” in a sense. A word of advice: don’t rely on the alternate option. Psychology is an indispensable tool in marketing and sales, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to ignore it.
To incorporate psychology into your copy, you must first understand the human brain. Don’t worry, this isn’t brain surgery. Though we will need to take a look at a few parts of the brain:
Different stimuli evoke different reactions from specific parts of the brain. See where this is leading? You can use your knowledge of these parts of the brain to get the responses you want.
For example, statistics might affect the rational part of the brain. A reader would have difficulty denying a statistic backed with actual proof. It’s impossible for anyone with sound logic. Think about comparing two products, one proven more effective than the other. Your choice is obvious.
Conversely, a sad story might poke at the emotional part of the brain. Everyone, despite any objections, makes decisions based on their emotions. One of the best examples is the ad campaign with all the starving animals. Sure, they’re not necessarily selling a product, but they rely on the emotional impact of the images in the ads.
Finally, high-stakes scenarios can stimulate the instinctual brain. Survival is every person’s base instinct, and everyone will do what it takes to stay alive. You don’t have to tell your audience they’ll die without your offer, but you can lay out an unpleasant scenario. For example, an ad for a health product could show how bad life can be without the product.
Think of these summaries as rules of thumb. Of course, human psychology is complex and still not fully understood, but you can have a general idea of how people think and act.
Studies show that consumers don’t like to make hard decisions, so make it easier for them. Every aspect of your website should drive your customers down a clear and direct path.
Your copy needs to make it obvious that you have the right solution and best option to solve a problem. The catch is that it isn’t easy to convince your audience, and they’ll only believe you if there are no other choices.
Let’s say you want to buy prescription contacts from an online retailer. Website #1 has a landing page that says, “You can buy our high-quality contacts or our competitor’s cheap contacts.” Website #2 says, “Made by a team of industry experts, our contacts are the best gifts you can give your eyes.”
Which one are you more likely to buy?
Chances are it’s the second site because they don’t give you options. The first site might make you want to visit their competitor to see if they have lower prices for the same products. Congrats, you’ve lost leads.
The leads that stay are still wondering if there are better options. What makes this company so unique? Do they understand my needs as a customer?
Make sure they know that you do. Handle objections, provide additional information, and offer help. Do whatever it takes because once you’ve lost leads, you might as well forget about getting them back.
While the second site in the contact lens example didn’t do a great job, it still did better than the first. The first company only listed benefits—no solutions (something we’ll discuss more). It’s not enough to tell your customers what to buy. Tell them why they need it.
Your copy should reflect what your customers value. In the example of the contact retailers, they targeted people who value quality over cost. What’s most important to your customers? Where in your business do you offer this? Can you prove it?
This last question might be the most important one. It’s not enough to say, “We’re the best,” you need to show it. You can do this with consistent messaging (which helps keep customers, not only get new ones) and compelling storytelling.
All writing is some form of storytelling. Copywriting, in particular, tells why you’re the missing piece to the customer’s puzzle. Start by thinking about your business story and why your offerings are essential. Then, write this all out in a way that will convince your leads of its truth.
Remember, though, that you need to be telling the truth. That might sound obvious, but it’s imperative. Anything short of facts will make your audience distrust you, reconsider buying from you, and even start dragging your name through the mud.
There’s no recourse for you, either. On the other hand, there’s plenty of recourse against businesses that mislead their customers. That scenario could lead to much more than lost sales, so make sure you build trust on a solid foundation.
If you’re unsure how to do that, look at brands you trust for inspiration. Then, consider what makes them so trustworthy to you and try to apply those things to your business.
Look at businesses you don’t trust, too. Why don’t you trust them? What led to your negative opinion of them? Make sure you don’t make the same mistakes. There’s no shame in taking notes from other businesses, even your competition, when they’re doing something better than you.
Learn the ways to jam-pack proof in your copywriting here.
For your customers to consider you a viable option, you need to pique their interest. The truth is, that can be hard in the modern day. People see countless ads daily, and they’ve learned to ignore them. They’ve also learned to filter out clickbait and ridiculous claims.
That leaves you between a rock and a hard place. You need to grab a reader’s attention as soon as possible, but you have to be 100% honest and transparent. This is where you can let your creativity shine.
See, curiosity is the bread and butter of good copy. Of course, you have to build it, but the payoff is worth your effort. The simplest way to write interesting web copy is to follow AIDA:
While you can use several other templates to write copy, this template is an excellent place to start. It can help build your audience’s curiosity while also maintaining consistency.
When using AIDA, the curiosity gap is essential. This means teasing readers with a hint of what’s to come without giving away the answers.
Think of clickbait titles you see on Buzzfeed. People might not care about some celebrity’s tattoo removal. That can change when they see “Pete Davidson Hilariously Explained Why He’s Getting His Tattoos’ Burned Off.’”
This compulsion is what good copy should generate in your audience. Readers need to feel interested for their brains to produce an instinctual reaction.
Here's how to pique curiosity in your copy with fascination bullet formulas.
This part is a bit technical, so pay attention. If your copy does its job, your audience should be ready to close the deal or convert. During each stage of the process leading up to this point, significant brain activity is going on.
When a lead sees your landing page, dopamine and adrenaline release in their brain. Cortisol (the stress hormone) follows when they face a pain point you address with your copy. At least, that’s what should happen if your copy reaches them on a deep psychological level.
If all goes well, your solution washes away the cortisol with more dopamine and endorphins. You can think of this process as a rollercoaster, figuratively and literally.
Your audience should experience a range of emotions, just like they would arriving at the theme park, getting in line, and finally riding the rollercoaster. So make your copy the rollercoaster and get your audience safely to the end of the ride, where they’ll convert.
Good copywriting will carry leads through these steps before reaching a sale. Analysis paralysis must be nowhere in sight at this point so that your customer’s brain can release serotonin and oxytocin, feeling confident that they have found the perfect solution to their problems (you).
While your copy should upsell benefits, addressing problems is just as important. Put yourself in the shoes of someone buying a new electric car. You probably know some of the benefits, and the manufacturer will be sure to educate you on anything you don’t know.
But what about the problems with the car? It can’t be perfect. Otherwise, everyone would have one. So, you probably have some objections and questions. If the business doesn’t address them, you might assume they’re trying to mislead you.
That’s why it’s important to focus on benefits and potential pitfalls. Your copy has to handle objections before they arise. Otherwise, prospects will move past your business and start shopping with your competitors.
Let’s look at two more specific examples of this:
Example #1: “Our assessments cover every relevant risk concern and help businesses understand where they have room to grow. Long story short, we make them more secure.”
Example #2: “We have an exceptional track record in the cybersecurity industry. The risk forecasts and actionable solutions that come with our assessments can help you bolster your cybersecurity infrastructure and appropriately train your staff. This means you’ll be ahead of any vulnerabilities compromising the safety and soundness of your retail transactions and business operations.”
The difference is that the first example focuses on selling the service. In contrast, the second example tells how you can improve your business with this company. In addition, it addresses potential concerns and explains the process.
In short, the second example provides clarity and transparency. If you think your audience might rethink your offer if you do the same, you may want to look over your offer. After all, good copy can’t save a bad offer.
Still, the goal of your copy should be to ease your customers’ fears using the tips mentioned above. Then, they can flow through the process, from cortisol to oxytocin release.
Instability is the root of so many problems. Don’t let your copy be one of those problems. A consistent message can get you more customers, but it can do much more if you’re diligent.
For one, consistency helps you build your brand. A strong, unique brand is invaluable, and a consistent message will only strengthen yours. Let’s think about this in terms of people.
Who are you more likely to trust? Someone who has the same attitude every day and appears to be genuine? Or someone who seems to change their behavior based on whatever serves them?
If you’re like most people, you’ll choose the first person. The same goes for your copy: a consistent message establishes your business as stable and trustworthy. Customers know what to expect, which makes them more likely to buy from you.
Consistency also helps you retain customers. If you weren’t aware, gaining a new customer costs multiple times as much as retaining a customer. Even if you can afford that, wouldn’t you prefer to keep your customers?
Then stay consistent. It’s that simple. And who knows, you might gain more customers based on your current customers’ recommendations. Everything your business does contributes to its reputation. Keep that in mind as you do anything.
Learn how to boost clarity in your copywriting here.
You might think copywriting is much more complex than you realized. That may seem true, but copywriting doesn’t have to be difficult. Of course, practice helps, but you also need to consider technical aspects like language, tone, and psychology.
That’s where most of the complexity comes from: you’re dealing with real people and their brains. You can’t predict how every single person will react to your copy, but you can have a good idea of what will compel them.
Psychology can give you that edge. It provides a basis from which you can appeal to people on deeper levels—no more guessing and shots in the dark. Now you can be sure that you’re, at the very least, appealing to the right parts of the brain.
Good copy considers your customers’ perspectives, thoughts, beliefs, values, and pain points. Understanding this is the first step in writing copy that sells. Mastering it will ensure that you’ll write high-converting copy for years.
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